Whitetail Dispersal: How and Where Button Bucks Find Home Ranges

button buckIn the early 2000s researchers with Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences captured and radio-collared 543 bucks, 454 of which were less than 1 year old when captured in the winter. Of particular interest: How and where the young bucks would “disperse” in the summer and fall.

In this Deer-Forest blog post, the researchers explained: Dispersal is a one-time movement from a natal (where born) home range to a different adult home range. For our research (and most studies) we say an animal disperses if there is no overlap between natal and adult home ranges.

So what did they find?

*About 75% of the bucks dispersed as 1-year-olds. Half the dispersal occurred in spring (May-June) and the rest in early autumn (September-October).

*The average dispersal distance for a buck was about 5 miles, but one yearling went 25 miles!

*The dispersal process is fast and furious process. Half the bucks dispersed to their new home range in less than 12 hours, and almost all of them reached their new home in 24 hours.

Some more findings are fascinating!

They had GPS collars on 9 young males and were able to obtain locations every 2.5 hours. On a scale of 0 (random movement) to 10 (straight line) these bucks scored an 8.1. In other words, when the dispersal bug hits them, most yearling bucks move quickly and in a fairly straight line to the new home range where they will spend their lives.

More cool info: The researchers found that in the ridge and valley region of central Pennsylvania where the study occurred, deer are likely to disperse parallel to the ridges. Also, roads and rivers have an impact. A deer is more likely to disperse away from a road and more likely to stop his dispersal movement before crossing a road big or small.

Finally, the researchers note that if you see a button buck on your property next month, there is a 75% chance he’ll be gone by this fall’s archery season. Conversely, if you see a young buck with his first set of antlers in the archery season, there is a 75% chance he came from somewhere else, 5 or more miles away.

2 thoughts on “Whitetail Dispersal: How and Where Button Bucks Find Home Ranges

  1. Love this blog posting. If you keep your eyes out while driving this Spring you may see a young buck running hard, tongue hanging out, heading to his new home. The does will run them off continuously until they “get the picture” and then instinct (or whatever it is called) kicks in. I’ve seen young bucks running hard, with their tongues hanging out, heading for that new home. It’s so awesome how everything in the whitetail world works. There is a reason for everything. Although it may seem “cruel” to have mamma run you off the spring after your own birth, it’s exactly the way “Mom Nature” has designed it for whitetails. One of the main things, or reasons is to ensure that that buck is NOT breeding with his “kin folk” in the years that he participates in the breeding. Five miles seems like a perfect distance to ensure that none of his immediate family will share that same range with him. Awesome blog Hanback!

  2. Interesting read!

    I wonder if there is a dispersal difference for “farmland” deer vs “big woods” deer?

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